Up until the episode’s lovely giraffe moment, Ellie seems subdued and absent-minded, visibly shaken by the terrifying wake-up call that humans are a more dangerous breed than the infected. While Ellie does her best to process such intense trauma, she is barely able to pay heed to Joel’s instructions when they navigate an area that requires climbing upwards. While holding the ladder for Joel, she suddenly drops it, rushing towards something she catches a glimpse of.
Even in the game, this moment is a source of anxiety, as the player is unsure of what Ellie sees, leading most to preemptively prepare for a potential new threat around the corner. Although “The Last of Us” has its share of heartwarming moments, the in-game experience is mostly relentless and viscerally traumatizing, which makes this moment all the more special and endearing. The episode manages to establish similar feelings, as we see a worried Joel rushing frantically after Ellie, weapon at the ready, not knowing what to expect. Before you know it, the duo see a majestic giraffe, just chilling near a clearing. When Joel sighs in relief, so do we. While Ellie looks on in awe of the creature, Joel urges her to feed it some leaves, which Ellie does tentatively. Then, something magical happens: she giggles, lost in the purity of a moment that allows her to be the carefree, inquisitive child she could’ve been if the world had not been so treacherous.
Joel is affected by the sheer beauty of the moment too, as it serves as a positive emotional high since the two venture into the unknown together. They can linger as long as possible and cling to the newfound hope that beauty exists amid stark ugliness, and that healing is truly possible.